A judge on Thursday sentenced former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor to 57 months behind bars, the maximum penalty possible, for fatally shooting a 911 caller in 2017.
Noor had been convicted of third-degree murder for the slaying of Justine Ruszczyk Damond on July 15, 2017 and sentenced to 12 1/2 years behind bars, before the state Supreme Court tossed that charge last month.
That left his conviction for second-degree manslaughter as the top conviction, leading to Thursday’s new sentencing hearing.
“I still cry so often and I miss her so deeply. I will always love her,” Don Damond, the slain woman’s fiancé, told the court via teleconference.
While disappointed by last month’s high court ruling, Damond said Justine Ruszczyk Damond would have shown mercy toward her killer.
“I no doubt she would have forgiven you, Mohamed, for your inability to manage your own emotions that night,” he said.
Noor spoke briefly in court and apologized again for his deadly action that night four years ago.
“I’m deeply grateful for Mr. Damond’s forgiveness,” the former officer said. “I’m deeply sorry for the pain that I’ve caused that family.”
The 57-month sentence was at the top of guidelines. He could have received as little as 41 months, which would have led to his immediate release from prison.
Hennepin County Judge Kathryn Quaintance acknowledged Noor’s record as a model prisoner but said his conduct that night warranted a maximum penalty.
“You did shoot across the nose of your partner. You did endanger a bicyclist and residents of a community of surrounding houses on a summer Saturday evening. One household was entertaining guests on a porch adjacent to the gunfire,” she said.
“These factors of endangering the public make your crime of manslaughter appropriate for high end of the guidelines.”
Under Minnesota sentencing guidelines, Noor — with good behavior — is eligible for supervised release after serving two-thirds of his time. He was convicted April 30, 2019, and immediately taken into custody.
Quaintance’s sentencing likely means he’ll walk free in the middle of 2022.
Noor and his partner, Matthew Harrity, were called to Damond’s neighborhood after the 40-year-old Australian native believed she heard a woman being sexually assaulted and screaming for help.
As the officers pulled into a nearby alley, Damond came up to the driver’s side of the squad car where Harrity was sitting, startling the officers, they said.
Noor testified that he heard Harrity yelling “Oh Jesus!” This prompted Noor to draw his service weapon and push his partner’s chest to clear a path.
“I fired one shot,” Noor told jurors, later adding, “My intent was to stop the threat and save my partner’s life.”
The state Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors didn’t prove Noor acted with a “depraved mind, without regard for human life,” which would be needed for the third-degree murder conviction.
That statute has always been used in cases when a defendant is accused of endangering multiple people and not targeting a single individual, according to the high court.
Prosecutors had argued Noor fit that crime because his fatal shot at Damond could have also wounded Harrity or a passing bicyclist. The high court ruled it was clear Noor was only targeting the woman he killed.
The city of Minneapolis agreed to a $20 million settlement with Damond’s family.